6 Dermatologist-Approved Face Masks to Keep Acne in Check

From lightweight peel-offs to creamy clay and charcoal masks, we’ve got the best treatments to help banish breakouts.

Indulging in a face mask and a glass of wine simultanously is one of our favorite pastimes. And no matter your skin type-oily, dry, sensitive-masks can be enjoyed by everyone, even those with acne-prone skin. Face masks can help zap current breakouts, prevent new pimples from developing, and remove excess oil from the skin, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

But with so many masks out there, which ones are best for those of us with breakouts, redness, and acne?

Peel-off masks are perfect for oily or acne-riddled skin. Not only is there something super satisfying about lifting the mask from one side of your face and slowly peeling it off so you can feel each pore being unclogged, but they also work especially well to exfoliate as they pull away from your skin, says New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD.

Sheet masks are great for hydrating dry skin (and for allowing ingredients to really soak in), but they’re not ideal for those with acne. These kinds of masks can actually worsen breakouts thanks to their pore-blocking tendencies, Dr. Jaliman says.

On the other hand, clay masks (think: kaolin and bentonite) draw out impurities from the skin, alleviate oil buildup and clogged pores, and prevent acne, says Dr. Jaliman. Another game changer? Activated charcoal masks work like magnets to draw out and trap dirt and oil. Other powerful ingredients to look for: Benzoyl peroxide works to lower levels of acne-causing bacteria on the skin, while alpha hydroxy acids remove oil and exfoliate dead cells to keep pores clearer, explains Dr. Zeichner.

Because face masks have much longer contact with your skin than face washes do, it’s important to choose carefully since some can cause irritation, warns Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. Avoid masks with added fragrances and those with comedogenic ingredients, such as coconut oil, which have a higher potential to cause more acne, she says.

We’ve done the homework for you: Here are the top dermatologist picks for the best face masks for acne

1 Aveeno Clear Complexion Pure Matte Peel-Off Face Mask

Formulated with alpha hydroxy acids, soy, and pomegranate, this no-rinse face mask lifts impurities from pores, leaving you with clearer skin after just one peel. Ingredients like lactic and glycolic acids help balance your complexion, says Dr. Zeichner. Snag a single-use mask for traveling or keep a bottle on hand at home for nights when you need a little self-care.

2 Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask

A favorite of Dr. Jaliman’s, this mask helps to get rid of environmental toxins and dirt that clog pores and dull skin. The bamboo charcoal eliminates excess oil that could lead to blackheads and acne, while China clay absorbs toxins and lecithin dissolves impurities. The result? Gorgeous, glowing skin.

3 Proactiv Skin Purifying Mask

Masks loaded with antibacterial sulfur can help decrease acne breakouts and treat blackheads when used weekly, says Dr. Nazarian. Her choice from Proactiv fits the bill, as it features sulfur and antioxidant protection to deep-clean pores, calm irritation, reduce shine, and smooth skin.

4 Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave-On Mask

Another favorite of Dr. Zeichner’s, this drugstore acne mask boasts benzoyl peroxide to treat breakouts and prevent new ones from cropping up. Unlike other masks, this formula vanishes instantly into skin (no rinsing necessary), which allows the acne-fighting ingredients to absorb deep into pores, killing acne-causing bacteria. It’s so low maintenance, you can even apply your moisturizer or makeup directly on top of the mask.

5 SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque

Packed with kaolin and bentonite clay, aloe, and fruit extracts, this soothing mask is perfect for acne-prone skin, says Dr. Jaliman. She loves it because it unclogs pores, removes impurities, and balances oil production-even if it is a splurge-so that you’re left with smooth and healthy-looking skin.

6 Glytone Acne Treatment Mask

If your skin reacts well to sulfur, Dr. Nazarian also recommends this face mask that helps promote a clear and shine-free complexion. Thanks to sulfur and kaolin and bentonite clays, it absorbs excess oil, reduces breakouts, and soothes inflammation. Plus, the mask eliminates annoying blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples while minimizing pores to reveal clear, glowy skin.

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